FIDDLE-DEE-DEE: “I view all musical history as a tree, one with deep roots, a broad trunk, wide branches, and many limbs,” said The Ventucky String Band’s Matt Sayles. “The value of any type of music is intrinsically linked to the past, and any artist worth paying attention to understands the branches to which they are connected.”
The ancient tree of folk music will bear its musical fruit this weekend once again in Goleta for the 44th Annual Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention and Festival, when a star-studded lineup of folk, bluegrass, and Americana performers descend upon the Rancho La Patera & Stow House for a day of impromptu jamming, competitive fiddling and strumming, sing-alongs, and all manner of family-friendly activities. Founded in 1972 by renowned musician Peter Feldmann, the event, now run by the Goleta Valley Historical Society, has grown to be a community favorite in its reverence for skilled musicianship and good old-fashioned fun. This year’s lineup includes the talents of the Grammy Award–winning Kathy Kallick Band, as well as groups like Front Country, the Joe Sands Fontenot Cajun Creole Band, and area acts the Salt Martians and The Ventucky String Band, who kick off the festival the night before at the Goodland Hotel.
This year marks the first time the Ventucky String Band will be one of the featured acts at the festival, though their reputation precedes them as one of the premier bluegrass acts in the 805 since forming in 2010. You may have seen them before, either sharing a playbill with some of the biggest names in country and folk — Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Asleep at the Wheel — or soundtracking a raucous wedding or birthday party. “We played a birthday party for a really sweet Russian ex-pat in San Fernando earlier this year,” Styles said of an epic party at which he and the band performed. “We had a blast, but I realized I’m a rookie when it comes to hanging with a Russian birthday party.”
The band released its newest album, The Band Plays On, this year.
The Ventucky String Band plays Saturday, October 10, at 6 p.m. at the Goodland Hotel, 5650 Calle Real, Goleta (all ages, free), and Sunday, October 11, 10:30 a.m., at the 44th Annual Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention and Festival at Rancho La Patera & Stow House, 304 North Los Carneros Road ($20 adults, $15 seniors, $5 students, free for kids). Call (805) 681-7216 or visit goletahistory.org.
HOME RUN: Tommy Alexander, who returns to his hometown of Santa Barbara on Sunday, October 11, as an opener for Michael McDonald at the Lobero Theatre, didn’t become a musician until he was 21. The originally stage-frightened youngster initially took to sports, growing so accomplished at bat that he was a draftee of the Atlanta Braves in 2005.
But the competitive world of baseball wasn’t for him, and Alexander found a much truer calling in the collaborative realm of creativity. He moved to Vermont in 2009, where he cofounded Jenke Arts, a community arts and education center with a calendar packed with donation-based classes. This year, he moved to Portland, Oregon, where the collaborations have continued. Alexander finds himself working with one of his musical heroes, M. Ward producer Mike Coykendall.
His debut solo album, Basement Soul, earned praise from the Huffington Post for being “downright mind-bending” and “strikingly truthful,” and certainly Alexander cuts right to the tender parts of the soul with his poignant lyrics and deep voice, which, like many greats, is tinged with a timeless melancholy.
“This journey has helped so much with my life, relationships, and an understanding in what dreams really are,” he said. He’s returning the favor, too: Sunday’s concert will benefit Youth Interactive, helping underserved youth realize their dreams, too.
Tommy Alexander plays with Michael McDonald and Ambrosia on Sunday, October 11, at 6 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre, 33 East Canon Perdido Street ($75-$175). Call (805) 963-0761 or visit lobero.com.